To ease the potential frustration, begin preparing for the working world in advance! Here are some tips to help you set yourself up for success and give yourself an edge when you graduate.
1. Choose Your Modules Carefully
Although learning is not a mean to an end, it is still important to consider if following your heart at the current moment will contribute to where you want to go to in the future.
This does not mean you must only study what seems practical. You could still choose your major based on what you are passionate about, but be sure to supplement your curriculum with other practical modules that equip you with more marketable skills. Whatever it is, have a long-term perspective when you pick classes and ensure that there is a good mix of useful ones on your transcript.
2. Get to Know Your Professors
In the huge university lecture theatres, it is easy to blend in. Unlike in junior college or secondary school, you can usually get away with skipping class without your professor jumping on your case.
However, do remember that your professor – with his or her years of expertise – is likely to have many connections in the field you hope to enter in the future. He or she might be someone you want to ask a referral letter from after you graduate, or even be someone who can provide valuable advice on the steps to take to reach your goals.
As such, try to be visible in class. Participate, answer questions and be involved. Make the effort to get to know your professors. This does not mean you should be an over-enthusiastic class participant, or a boot-licker. Rather, be respectful and diligent and build connections that may be useful for your future.
3. Intern and Excel
The long summer holidays are a great time to find relevant work experience in a field of your choice. Given, an intern may have a lower hourly rate than working part-time in a restaurant or shop, but the internship is likely to look better on your future resume.
Also, make the best of your internship. Be on the ball, get to know your colleagues, and take initiative to go above and beyond. All of these will leave a good lasting impression which will serve you well when you need a referral letter, or if you intend to apply back to the same company at a later date for a full-time position!
4. Understand the Importance, or Lack Thereof, of Co-Curricular Activities
On one hand, participation in co-curricular activities like team sports, and taking up leadership roles, can demonstrate positive characteristics that an employer will value. However, on the other hand, unlike in secondary school, your co-curricular actives in university will be unlikely to help you “DSA” into your future.
This means that you might want to think twice before you skip class to go for training as the former may have a more lasting impact on your future! It also could mean that you want to spend more time in activities and positions that will allow you to exhibit skills that a future employer would value – for instance, an entrepreneurship club, or volunteering to help the underprivileged.
5. Build your Network
Sometimes universities arrange for talks with companies or industry professionals. Look out for these talks and make effort to attend. Again, be visible. Ask questions, collect name cards from the relevant people – maybe even connect with them on LinkedIn. Use these platforms to get to know more about the industry or company that you are interested in, and to also get yourself on their radar!